American Airlines Announces Twice-Daily Service to a Town With Fewer Than 36,000 Residents
American Airlines, the world's largest airline, is ever-expanding its network. In May, AA launched new routes to Prague and Budapest and added a new route to Venice. Not long after that AA announced new service to Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Although some of these routes might be a bit of a stretch, this week AA unveiled an especially peculiar new venture: Dallas/Fort Worth to Del Rio, Texas (DRT), a city that has 35,998 residents as of a 2016 Census Bureau estimate. The route will launch on November 4, 2018 and operate twice daily using regional partner Envoy Air's 44-seat Embraer ERJ-140.
Never heard of Del Rio International Airport? Well, that's not surprising. If you currently search Google Flights for flights to Del Rio, you're going to get an error message:
That's because Del Rio currently has no commercial airline service. The airport's last scheduled commercial air service ended November 17, 2017. But, even that wasn't very impressive: Contour Aviation operated a 6x weekly service between Del Rio and Dallas/Fort Worth using a 19-seat BAe Jetstream 32. When the route was ended, the airline noted "the targeted goals for enplanements, in order to continue this service, have not been reached."
Yet despite Contour's inability to fill a 19-seat plane, American Airlines hopes to have success filling a 44-seat plane — and not 6x weekly, but twice daily. At 88 seats each direction per day, that's a weekly "lift" of 1,232 passengers per week or 64,064 seats on the route per year.
So, why in the world would American Airlines launch this route? Well, it turns out it wasn't much of a financial risk for the airline. The city of Del Rio is providing American Airlines a revenue guarantee of $2.9 million for the first two years of operation. This funding is being generated by an increase in tolls on the busy US-Mexico international border crossing.
But, why in the world would the City of Del Rio make such a revenue guarantee? The city is hoping to save the area's largest employer — Laughlin Air Force Base — from closure. According to Del Rio mayor Robert Garza, "believe it or not, BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] looks at whether or not there is an airline service."
To sum this up, a city that has an easy way of collecting revenue and wants to save its largest employer is shouldering much of the financial risk to convince the world's largest airline to launch service from its commercially-dormant airport.
If you're interested in checking out the route for yourself, tickets aren't yet on sale, but the schedule is reported to be:
- Del Rio (DRT) 6:30am departure ⇒ Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) 7:49am arrival
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) 2:35pm departure ⇒ Del Rio (DRT) 3:59pm arrival
- Del Rio (DRT) 4:25pm departure ⇒ Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) 5:44pm arrival
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) 10:15pm departure ⇒ Del Rio (DRT) 11:39pm arrival
To read more about this story, check out San Angelo Live's full report on the new route.